2009-09-23 Astronomy Picture of the Day for Mac OSX Desktop Background

Based on Harold Bakker's APOD script, I offer the following solution. I don’t keep my computer running, so I just install the following Apple Script as a login item (→ System Preferences → Accounts → Login Items):

(* Place your with timeout statement within a try... on error statement to prevent the script from 
stopping when a timeout occurs. *)
	-- Give the script a three minute timeout to prevent problems when this is run as a login item
	with timeout of 180 seconds
		do shell script "~/bin/ >> /var/tmp/console.log" -- append the result to the console log
	end timeout
on error errMsg -- display a dialog only if an error occurs
	display dialog errMsg giving up after 10
end try

You should probably create a new script using the Script Editor on your system, paste the above, and save it as an application. Remember to untick the startup screen checkbox.

You’ll notice that it runs a Perl script called /bin/ – you should create that directory, put the following Perl script in it, and make it executable. I keep both and in the same /bin directory.


# This script will download the astronomy picture of the day and set
# it as the current desktop background.

# originally by Harold Bakker,

# changes by Alex Schroeder <>

use strict;
use LWP::UserAgent;
use File::Temp qw/tempfile/;

my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new;
my $response = $ua->get("");
if ($response->is_success
   and $response->content =~ /href\="image\/([^\/]+)\/(.*?)"/) {
  my $url = "$1/$2";
  my $filename = $2;
  $response = $ua->get($url);
  if ($response->is_success) {
    my ($fh, $tempfile) = tempfile(UNLINK=>0);
    print $fh $response->content;
    close $fh;
    open(F, "|/usr/bin/osascript") or die "Cannot run Apple Script: $!";
    print F <<END;
tell application "Finder"
	set pFile to POSIX file "$tempfile" as string
	set desktop picture to file pFile
	end tell
  } else {
    die $response->status_line;
} else {
  die $response->status_line;

This should work fine as long you restart your computer about once a day. I haven’t made sure that it will try to reuse images, saving the last one in a save place, etc.


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2006-08-18 Exposé or Tabs

I’ve never been a big user of Apple’s Exposé (KDE alternative: Komposé). Somehow Command-Tab (Alt-Tab on Windows) has been good enough for me. On OSX there’s an additional complication, however: If you want to switch applications, use Command-Tab. But if you want to switch windows within the same application (from one Terminal window to the next, from one Chat window to the next), you need to use Command-< (at least on a SwissGermanKeyboard).

In this context, using F9 to see all the windows of all the applications and using the mouse or the arrow keys to pick the window you want seems like a good idea.

If your applications us tabbed windows, however, you loose: You will never see windows hidden behind tabs. Just like you will never see the Emacs buffers that are not shown in a window. Is this a natural turning point for people with too many tasks?

I have no solution for Emacs, where I often have several dozen buffers open (eg. half a dozen IRC channels, half a dozen source files, an EmacsShell buffer, scratch, various directories, plus sometimes calendar or calculator). But for browsers, there is a solution: You can switch tabbed browsing on or off. So now I’m trying to live without tabbed browsing and using Exposé to navigate windows. At least for a while.


Comments on 2006-08-18 Exposé or Tabs

C-x C-b is useful, as is either iswitchb or ido. =)

SachaChua 2006-08-19 14:32 UTC

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